A Struggling Teen's Guide to 13 Reasons Why
Why did Hannah Baker kill herself? This is the basis for the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. Do you have an answer to this question? You could say it was because she was bullied. You could say it was because she was raped. You could say it was because the guidance counselor let her down. And none of those reasons would be wrong, technically. But none of them is the complete answer. Hannah Baker killed herself because she was suffering from depression and lost that battle. Hannah Baker made a choice. She was feeling isolated, lonely, and in pain, and she chose to end that pain with suicide. You may be feeling some of these same things. But I need you to understand that you have a choice.
This show does a great job of showing how terrible high school can be for some students. It shows the pain, the loneliness, the horrible things that can happen to you. It shows how SOME adults can let you down. It shows how the people you think are your friends can betray you. It also shows some very disturbing things. The rape scenes are brutal and are likely to be traumatic for many people. The suicide scene is intense. It shows Hannah taking her life in graphic detail. I can only imagine the thoughts and feelings that scene would bring up in someone who is struggling with their own suicidal urges. 13 Reasons Why communicates pain in vivid detail.
There is hope
What the show does not communicate is hope. And there was hope in Hannah’s life, if she would have chosen to look for it. Clay cared about Hannah and showed this to her. He was not perfect and made mistakes, but he offered caring to her. Hannah’s parents obviously cared about her. They were busy and stressed with their own problems, but they cared. Hannah’s mother bought her chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Her father upgraded their vehicle lease so that she could drive her friends to the dance in style. Her parents were imperfect (like all parents), but if Hannah had truly reached out to them, I believe they would have listened. There were likely other small glimmers of light in Hannah’s life, but she was depressed and so focused on the negative things—the parts that hurt—that she wasn’t able or willing to see that light anymore.
Another source of hope that Hannah did not have, but hopefully you do, is faith in Christ. We as Christians know that we are loved by God even if it feels like no one on this earth loves us. I know at times God can feel very far away, and that we also need human love and support. But God’s promises are there for us to rely on and draw strength from. He promises to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Healing steps to take
For some of you reading this article, you see yourself in Hannah Baker. You see the ways others hurt or let her down and you think, “Yes! I know how that feels.” You are lonely and overwhelmed. Maybe it feels almost impossible to get out of bed in the morning. Maybe it feels like there is no one in your world who cares. Maybe you have thought about killing yourself. Maybe you have even made a plan or attempted suicide. If those things are true for you, YOU HAVE A CHOICE. You do not have to make the same choice as Hannah Baker. You can choose life. You can choose to keep fighting even when it feels impossible and to reach out to someone, anyone, who can help fight for you when it is just too hard.
The first step is being willing to admit to someone that you need help. Who could that be? It could be your parents, a relative, a friend’s parent, a teacher or someone at your school, your pastor, a professional counselor. Professional counselors are trained to help teens who are hurting. If you don’t feel there is an adult you can tell, please share your feelings with a friend—a friend who will know to tell a trusted adult about your struggles.
If you aren’t ready to reach out to an adult or a friend, please call or text a hotline. Those numbers are in the next paragraph of this article. There is help for depression. There are trained adults ready to listen and help you learn different ways of thinking and coping so that life does not have to hurt so much. This CAN GET BETTER. I’ve seen it. As a counselor, I’ve been on that journey of healing with many teens, and it is a powerful journey every time. You are stronger than you feel right now. Reach out. Tell someone. You CAN do this. Please click here for a plan to help you cope.
Even in the midst of pain, the love of God never fails us. He is the one who fought for us on the cross and gives us eternal life. The Word of God brings us the reminders of his love, his grace, and his promises to never leave us.
- National Suicide Hotline: Call 1.800.273.TALK
- Suicide Textline: Text CONNECT to 741741
- Christian Family Solutions request appointment page or 800.438.1772 to request an appointment with a professional Christian counselor
Coming Next: A Friend’s Guide to 13 Reasons Why
Elizabeth Robinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 10 years of experience counseling adolescents with mental health issues in outpatient and psychiatric day treatment settings. She works extensively with teens who are suicidal and engage in self-harm.